Safety Through Cooperation

The culture of aviation and ramp safety has long since been a topic of discussion in our industry. Although safety is dependent upon communication, performance and maintenance, many agree that cooperation is the key.

The Airport Operations Safety Panel (AOSP) was formed to raise industry awareness on the current state of airport operations safety, identify areas of concern, seek solutions and make recommendations, according to the 15-member panel representing various sectors of the industry. They include the DFW Int'l Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), Qantas Airways, United Airlines, Shell Aviation, Armbrust Aviation Group, and Air BP, among others.

In June 2004, their Report on the Safety of Airport Operations concluded the industry could "save billions annually in uninsured costs associated with ramp accidents, injuries and delays by instituting the following recommendations":

  • Adopt a set of minimum standards for ramp operations, which is championed by airports.

  • Adopt standardized licensing, training and certification for safe vehicle operation on the ramp.

  • Work with the FAA to develop regulations requiring a runway incursion program.

  • Adopt a comprehensive, industry-wide fuel facility design standard.

  • Adopt a system operator certification program.

Though the report surmised that AOSP "lacks quantitative data to estimate an exact costs savings from the adoption of the recommendations ... the panel believes if these recommnedations are enacted, the industry would increase ramp safety; significantly reduce accidents and injuries." According to Goglia, as a result of participation in one of the aviation safety operations panels, Boston's Massport has taken the information provided by both ASOP and FSF and implemented a ramp awareness program which, in less than a year, looks like it has reduced ramp incursions by 50 percent.

An airport survey (46 airports in the US and Canada participated) requested by members of the Airport Council International (ACI) and conducted by the Armburst Aviation Group (AAG) concluded in February 2005 that "the most common complaint among airport professionals is the lack of industry standardization within airport ops" and "there are not industry-wide guidelines that encompass ramp operations."

A Puzzling Puzzle

Each agency has acquired or is in the process of acquiring a piece or pieces of information and data to assist in completing the ramp damage and safety puzzle. Each agency has insisted that they are not in competition or working against one another and they are willing to share the information. However, each agency believes they should not necessarily be the bellwether but the "umbrella" embracing all agencies and elements concerning the ramp safety benchmarking, standardization and Safety Management System initiatives. States Goglia, "I long thought that I could be a catalyst to bring them [all interested parties] to the table so that we could cooperate and work together. That goal has been illusive."

The question then remains; how can we hope to achieve the goal of setting industry standards and a corresponding SMS if the pieces are not being combined to build the same puzzle? It goes without saying that an agency or organization exists for the best interests of its members, however, when there is a common goal in which all interested parties agree should be industry-wide and benefit everyone, then why aren't we combining resources? As FSF's Vandel puts it, "The more tools we've got, the better." Now lets put them together.

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